Two new wind turbines go into operation this week at the Mont Crosin power plant in the Jura. The mills, which are the most powerful so far erected in Switzerland, will boost national wind production by 70 per cent.
Almost all of Switzerland's wind energy is currently generated at Mont Crosin. The four existing wind turbines produce about two and a half million kilowatt hours a year for about 850 households. The new mills will raise total production to 4.3 million kilowatt hours.
"The number of customers is growing and this makes us confident that we'll be able to build more windmills," said Dr Jakob Vollenweider, director of the plant.
Wind power currently accounts for just 0.005 per cent of Swiss electricity production compared with about 60 per cent from water power and almost 40 per cent from nuclear power.
The Federal Office for Energy believes that about 3.5 per cent of Switzerland's electricity needs could eventually be met by wind power if all suitable sites were developed.
The main advantages of wind energy are that it is clean, renewable and non-toxic. The drawbacks are the visual intrusion and cost - currently twice as much per kilowatt hour as conventional energy sources, though supporters of wind power say this doesn't take into account the hidden costs to the environment of non-renewable energies.
"Five years ago the first wind turbines were set up near here," said local councillor, Philippe Hauri. "Of course, at the beginning, putting these turbines in the countryside was a bit of a shock but with time they're not really such an eyesore."
The wind turbines at Mont Crosin have inspired the Swiss composer Jean-Francois Bovard to write an oratorium which will enjoy its premiere at the end of the month.
"The first time I came here there was lots of fog and I couldn't actually see the windmills," he said. "I could only hear them above my head and it was all the more impressive because I couldn't see what I was hearing.
"It wasn't the noise of a plane, it wasn't the noise of a helicopter. It was a strange noise and it made one think of legends and dreams."
by Vincent Landon